Spring hearings help set direction for Wisconsin’s outdoor effortsOn April 11, the annual Spring Hearing for St. Croix County was held with approximately 70 dedicated, conservation-minded individuals in attendance.
By: By Mike Reiter, New Richmond News
On April 11, the annual Spring Hearing for St. Croix County was held with approximately 70 dedicated, conservation-minded individuals in attendance.
Statewide 5,574 people showed up to vote on the 85 questions that would direct the management of Wisconsin’s natural resources into the future.
Dave Larson from Glenwood City was re-elected to a three-year term, while Dan Donahue of New Richmond threw his hat into the ring and was also elected to serve as a St. Croix County delegate to the Conservation Congress, replacing Kyle Kulow of Baldwin, who decided not to run for another term. Dave and Dan join Jerry Thompson of Baldwin, Craig Olson of River Falls and Mike Reiter of New Richmond to round out the five-member county delegation.
The elections, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources questions, Conservation Congress advisory questions and four resolutions were voted on in a timely fashion in a meeting that lasted under an hour and a half.
Electronic voting has shortened up the meeting time while still allowing ample opportunity for discussion and deliberations on the various questions.
Hot button issues were baiting and feeding of deer, lead shot restrictions, waterfowl zone boundaries and cross bow use in the archery deer season. Everyone had a chance to voice their opinions prior to the vote and any technical questions were answered by the DNR staff in attendance. St Croix County has always run a very orderly meeting.
Results of the county vote was support for a minimum size restriction to 40 inches on muskellunge on all waters currently at a 34-inch size restriction (59-8), and yes to require a quick set rig when using minnows 10 inches or larger (61-2).
A request to establish a protected slot size on bass in Squaw and Glen Lakes in St. Croix County, which would allow a bag limit of three fish total with no minimum size limit but the possession of fish from 14 to 18 inches is prohibited and only one “keeper” which may be longer than 18 inches, passed by good margins.
Some wildlife management questions, which asked for a permanent December extension of the fall turkey season (63-7), an extension of each of the six spring turkey periods by two days so that each runs from Wednesday through the following Tuesday (58-18) and an elimination of the archery deer hunting season closure during the traditional nine-day deer gun season (54-21) all got positive responses.
A proposal to establish an elk hunting season in Wisconsin was approved (46-14).
The question to include Pierce and St. Croix Counties with other counties where the discharge of firearms on department land is prohibited except while hunting, dog training or at established ranges received positive votes.
The advisory questions which would recommend prohibiting the use of lead shot on department land failed (27-42), while the question of banning baiting and feeding of deer 10 days before and during the nine-day deer gun season received positive a response (50-19).
Conservation Congress advisory questions that asked for the legalization of crossbows statewide for the archery season failed, while the request for hunting and trapping on state park lands and to exempt all buildings from the 100 yard discharge prohibition while on public lands passed easily.
For a complete listing of results of the county and statewide voting, visit the DNR website. Submitted resolution results from all the counties were not available at this time.
Over the last few years there has been a ground swell of folks in our area who have expanded their horizons and become involved in a variety of outdoor activities. Hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing and cross county skiing are still in vogue, but bird watching or birding, as those who participate in the activity call it, is coming on strong.
To participate, all one needs is a good set of binoculars, a few bird books, a good pair of walking shoes and an interest in the wonders of nature.
Learning about the habits and haunts of various species of birds opens up new worlds. Interest in the plant communities that the birds call home expands ones knowledge base and the geological occurrences that helped form these communities add to it. Observing other types of creatures, both large and small, are value added.
Bird watching is much more than just watching birds!
This spring a number of very informative birding presentations have been offered. My wife, Sally, and I have availed ourselves of some of these opportunities. Subjects such as the stages of birding to specifics on bluebirds and chimney swifts were but a few offered. The St. Croix Valley Bird Club, Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin and the Audubon Society were some of the sponsors of these presentations.
Some of the upcoming local events scheduled are a bird walk sponsored by the New Richmond Pathway Committee happening on April 30; a nature walk to be held on a local Waterfowl Production Area on June 11, sponsored by the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District; and the drafting of a tour guide to local birding sites in St Croix and southern Polk counties also sponsored by FSCWMD will be out later this year.
Earlier this month we attended a presentation on chimney swifts put on by the St. Croix Valley Birding Club, featuring Ron Windingstad of the Minnesota Audubon Society.
While I have heard of chimney swifts, I don’t think I have every seen one up close and personal. Many folks misidentify the chimney swift as a bat because their flight is similar.
If bats are present along with the swifts, the bats will be leaving to feed as the swifts are returning to roost. They can use chimneys as roosting and nesting sites and thus their name.
According to Ron, chimney swifts have declined by more than 50 percent in the last 40 years with most of that decline coming in the last decade. They are called flying cigars because of their short fat body shape and pointed wings.
While their wingspread can measure a foot in length, this small bird only weighs 0.8 of an ounce. They are unable to perch on a branch or wire. They are among the fastest flying birds.
Chimney swifts spend all day in flight and only come to rest at night. They gather twigs for their nests in flight by breaking them off as they fly by. These swifts feed exclusively on small flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats. They have long claw like feet and a stiff set of bristled tail feathers that help them to balance as they cling to the sides of chimneys and other structures. Only one pair of nesting birds will occupy a nesting site but that site can contain many more non-nesting birds. Truly they are a wonder of nature.
Historically tree swifts nested in hollow trees, but adapted readily to the masonry chimneys that were built by early settlers. With the capping and demolition of so many in the last 40 years the decline of this interesting bird was inevitable.
All is not lost, however. Through the effort of a dedicated group of birders, the Chimney Swift Conservation Project was instituted, led by the Audubon Minnesota group. An effort is underway to conserve old nesting sites and also construct chimney swift towers to provide nesting habitat. These towers can be constructed for under $500 and are quite attractive fitting in nicely to any urban setting. A book is available with plans for the construction and placement of these towers. As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come”
By Tom Kerr (USF&WS)
On April 12, the St. Croix Wetland Management District completed its first controlled burn of the season.
We burned 70 acres on the 160 acre Hanten Waterfowl Production Area, which is located just north of H, about three miles east of Star Prairie.
People often ask why we burn. We burn as part of our goal of restoring the prairie, wetlands and oak savanna historically found in the St. Croix Wetland Management District.
On the Hanten WPA, we recently completed the removal of box elder and buckthorn as part of an oak savanna and grassland restoration project. Box elder and buckthorn are very aggressive plant species that can easily take over a field or an oak savanna.
During the tree removal phase, we treated the stumps with chemical to limit re-growth. Controlled fire is the next step in the long process of restoration. Fire will help knock back the new growth of invasive species and undesirable vegetation, allowing planted native prairie species to grow.
Controlled fires also re-invigorate the cool season grasses found on the Hanten WPA. Over time, these grasses, including brome, can build up a thick layer of ground litter. This layer of dead vegetation can become so thick that it prevents sunlight from reaching the new sprouts of grass.
Over time this can stunt the growth of grass, resulting in less standing cover. By burning this “duff” layer the ground is exposed and turned black, the sun warms the darkened ground, which aids in the growth of new sprouts which can more easily soak up the sun’s rays.
If you would like to see pictures of our controlled burns, check out our Facebook page by searching for the St. Croix Wetland Management District.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District or to download an aerial photo of the Hanten WPA, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/.